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Channel 4 set to lay off up to 200 staff in response to advertising downturn 

Channel 4 (C4) in the UK is reportedly preparing to lay off up to 200 staff as it grapples with the impact of an advertising downturn.

Alex Mahon

The commercially-funded UK public service broadcaster has told staff to prepare for a round of job cuts as it looks to cut costs and continue its shift away from traditional TV towards digital and streaming.

The reported job cuts, which would represent around 17% of C4’s overall headcount, have been described as “very concerning” by UK media workers union Bectu.

Alex Mahon, CEO at C4, told staff today in an internal memo cited by The Guardian, which first reported the news, that it is looking to “weather the sharp and protracted advertising slowdown that has hit the whole industry.”

It comes after C4 scaled back commissioning significantly over the summer of 2023 in response to the challenging ad market and the macroeconomic downturn in 2022 into last year.

A C4 spokesperson said: “Like every organisation, we are having to deal with an extremely uncertain economy in the short term and the need to accelerate our transformation to become a genuinely digital public service broadcaster in the long term.

“As a result, we need to continue to divest from our linear channels business and simplify our operations to become a leaner organisation. This will enable us to invest more in our digital future and in our remit to make distinctive and disruptive British content, increasingly focused on streaming and social channels.”

Responding to the reports of job cuts at C4, Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said: “News of impending cuts at Channel 4 will be very concerning for both staff and freelancers, many of whom are still suffering from precarious employment following the impacts of the pandemic.

“Bectu members know only too well how incredibly tough the last year has been for film and TV workers. With 2024 looking like it will present plenty of challenges for the sector, we will continue to fully engage with the broadcaster as it sets out its strategic direction and future plans,” Childs added.

C4’s financial woes come as the UK government’s soon-to-be-enacted Media Bill allow it the freedom to make and own its own content for the first time to help it expand its revenues beyond purely advertising.

However, the plans have been met with concern from the independent production sector that supplies C4 with its original programming.

C4 has said it has been working with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to ensure that any form of in-house production would enhance the value of its public-service role and mitigate negative impacts on the independent production sector.

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